The great thing about SOA is that when you add a service, you instantly increase the potential of any application that can consume that service. Today, Avaya threw a new set of VoIP services into the enterprise SOA mix in the form of its CEBP (Communications Enabled Business Processes) solution.
For most enterprises, the benefits of VoIP have been limited to the cost savings of retiring legacy phone systems and the added productivity of a few voice/data applications -- almost exclusively for call centers. CEBP exposes an array of voice communications features as Web services, which can be called upon by any number of applications from IT operations to supply chain management.
Avaya sees CEBP as a way for enterprises to optimize business processes and respond swiftly to events. For example, based on certain criteria, a temporary interruption at a manufacturing plant might cause SAP R/3 to ping CEBP, which would send an automated advisory message with a return receipt to the appropriate manager via phone, e-mail, or SMS. In the event of a total meltdown, the Notify & Conference feature could be invoked, initiating voice calls to a preset list of people and dropping them all into an emergency conference call.
In other instances, CEBP could merely ensure that composite workflow applications, oft cited as a big payoff of SOA, aren't stopped in their tracks by people who aren't sitting at a computer and can't respond promptly. As Avaya senior vice president Stuart Wells puts it, "by bringing our innovation in advanced and open technologies to business processes, Avaya gives organizations the unique competitive advantage that can only arise with more intelligent communications."
One customer, Whirlpool, has been experimenting with a pre-release version of CEBP for more than a year. Brian Murphy, director of e-services in Whirlpool's global development division, has already applied CEBP's array of services to IT processes, shortening response times. "If a system goes down ... that's an issue we want to be able to do something about in minutes, not hours. Straightaway, we want to be in action mode," he said.
Avaya is not the first vendor to provide a Web services platform for voice communications capabilities. Last September, BlueNote Networks introduced its SessionSuite SOA Edition, designed to enable developers to embed telephony capabilities in a range of applications. But Avaya's large customer base and professional services group could help jump start the use of voice-based Web services.
Whirlpool's Murphy, for one, is looking at expanding the use of CEBP in a number of areas, including supply chain management and manufacturing. "We're taking a strategic look at all parts of our business," he said.